Ohio’s Original Interscholastic Creative Writing Program for Middle Schools
Almost every school throughout the nation has a football team, a basketball team, and a wrestling team. Why not a writing team? Why not a season of interscholastic writing events? Why not a regional competition for the best young writers in Ohio? Why not a State Finals to measure and reward the art of written expression?
These were the questions that inspired the vision and led to the birth of Power of the Pen in 1986 by its founder, Lorraine B. Merrill.
Lorraine's first interscholastic tournament was held at Nordonia Junior High School and attracted just a handful of schools. But more importantly, the initiative helped earn her recognition as a Christa McAuliffe Fellow by the U.S. and State Departments of Education (1988). As a consequence, she was granted a year's sabbatical to bring to life her vision of blending innovative teacher training with interscholastic writing competitions as a means of strengthening academic achievement among students at the middle school level. This was accomplished (1988-1989) with substantial funding support from the Gund, Knight, and Cleveland Foundations.
Incorporated as a 501(c)(3) organization at that time, the program has since grown to become one of Ohio's largest educational enhancement programs. Middle school students throughout Ohio will benefit from Power of the Pen instructional methodologies this year, including nearly 3,000 who will compete in formal Power of the Pen interscholastic writing tournaments.
Power of the Pen, first called Olympics of the Pen, originated in 1985-86 as a single interscholastic writing tournament funded by the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation. Nordonia Junior High School hosted the event attended by 170 students and 28 teacher-judges from 15 neighboring school districts.
24 schools formed a coalition dedicated to the expansion of the program. Through the efforts of this interscholastic advisory board and supported by continued funding from the Jennings Foundation and the Knight Foundation, the Ohio Interscholastic Writing League (OIWL) was born. In one year, it was able to coordinate a season of three preliminary writing tournaments that culminated in a Northeastern Ohio Regional Tournament at Akron University.
The Founder, Loraine Merrill, is honored as a Christa McAuliffe Fellow and is given a one year sabbatical (with salary paid by the U.S. Department of Education) to create a State program.
Power of the Pen hosts its first State Tournament at Denison University.
The College of Wooster assumes the role as official host site for a much expanded Power of the Pen State Tournament. It offers the first full college scholarship for POP's Promising Young Talent Award.